Mon, May 19, 2003 - Page 5 News List

No data on threat, Malaysia says

REUTERS , KUALA LUMPUR

Malaysian security officials said yesterday they have received no fresh information of any terrorist threat from US intelligence services following a travel alert issued by Washington days ago.

Security forces worldwide are on guard against a resurgence of activity by Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network after a series of attacks on Western targets in Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Morocco in the last week.

Shortly after the bombings in Riyadh on Wednesday, the US Department of State updated advisories to US citizens to exercise caution travelling in East Africa and Malaysia.

But Malaysian security officials said Washington had not given fresh information to suggest any heightened risk specific to Malaysia, and Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has mocked the US for becoming afraid of its own shadow.

"No new intelligence has been passed onto us from anyone," a senior Malaysian security official said yesterday.

His comments tallied with those from US officials who said the advisory was an update of one issued after bomb attacks last October which killed more than 200, mostly Westerners, on the Indonesian resort island of Bali.

The US sources said that advisory had been due to expire, and the renewal was not based on any new information, whereas in the case of Kenya, Washington has warned of "a credible threat."

The US advisory told its citizens to be aware that militant organizations with links to al-Qaeda were operating in Southeast Asia and warned them to particularly exercise "extreme caution" visiting Malaysia's eastern state of Sabah.

In the last two years, largely Muslim Malaysia has arrested over 90 suspected militants, mostly members of Jemaah Islamiah, a Southeast Asian organization led by Indonesians, which has been blamed for the Bali bombings. Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines have also arrested Jemaah Islamiah members.

The greater threat in eastern coastal areas of Sabah, on the northern tip of Borneo island, came from the Abu Sayyaf, a militant-cum-bandit outfit, based in islands off the southern Philippines, just across the Sulu Sea.

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